A Little Lunch Music, City Recital Hall’s longest running series of lunchtime concerts curated by Artistic Director, Kathryn Selby AM, began the 2017 series with a showcase concert of Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s talented graduate pianists.
These young remarkable and accomplished pianists performed at the City Recital Hall world class performance space in the hub of Sydney, captivating the audience with their intelligent and authoritative performance techniques, fine musicality and challenging repertoire.
This special program of six pianists Cowley Fu, Sarah Li, Alexander Yau, Will Cesta, Nadia Koudasheva and Olivia Urbaniak on the brink of their professional careers was thrilling, as each pianist immersed the audience in the composition by producing intensely exhilarating and moving performances.
The six pianists chose inspirational and very demanding pieces of music to play from a wealth of very well-known composers with the addition of a few less familiar ones like Charles-Valentin Alkan and Sergei Lyapunov. Most of the composers chosen were also virtuoso pianists and perhaps their compositions aspired to stimulate and tax their own piano practice.
The six artists embraced the difficulties of the works and played with passion and dynamic technique. Cowley Fu opened the program with Maurice Ravel’s Oiseaux Tristes from Miroirs. Ravel dedicated five piano pieces to members of the Parisian artistic circle ‘Les Apaches.’ This piece was dedicated to Ricardo Vines, Spanish pianist and fellow member of the circle.
In his recital Cowley Fu communicated the melancholy and lyrical tone of the music. Ravel wrote “it evokes birds lost in the oppressiveness of a very dark forest during the hottest hours of summer.”
French-Jewish composer and virtuoso pianist, Charles-Valentin Alkan, in his Etude in C major Scintillante Op. 35 No. 4 offered a contrasting challenge to Cowley Fu. His rich engaging and energetic performance was a winner and it’s not surprising that he was recently identified in an issue of the International Piano Magazine for Best Recording of P. Rudzik’s Hot Springs.
Frederic Chopin’s Grand Polonaise Brillante Op.22 is one of the most technically demanding pieces of his music. However Sarah Li was up to the task and demonstrated a powerful confidence and rigorously accurate key board skills that communicated with clarity the beauty and complexity within the music.
Her fingers moved with agility and speed caressing the notes with the depth and maturity of a seasoned performer. She seized the essence of the opening fanfare and progressed with ease into the buoyant dance form.
Sarah Li’s performance was elegant, fluent and exuded the freshness and vitality of youth. Her animated perception of the composition was charismatic.
Alexander Yau performed Harmonies du Soir the eleventh etude of the set of twelve Transcendental Etudes by the composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt. Alexander Yau’s playing brilliantly illustrated the artistic richness of this beautiful but challenging music.
The resonant tonal qualities and the poetic colours of emotion were lovingly communicated by him and were savoured by the audience.
He languidly employed his left hand in the opening bars and his magnificent style was expressive as his commanding hand movement’s suspended time and immersed the audience in the pure articulation of the music.
Alexander Yau’s impeccable timing and his unique ability to explore the emotion of the piece was exquisitely emitted and impeccably conveyed. The wistful undertone of the music drew the listener deep within the poignant power of the composition.
The last exquisite passages of the music were gentle and lingered in the City Recital Hall as the audience reeled in spell bound fervour.
Dumka is a Ukrainian word meaning ‘thought.’ Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s one movement Dumka played by Will Cesta was thoughtful and melancholic in character. His recital was a banquet of moods with rich and turbulent textures across the endless and remote territory of the heart.
Will Cesta’s resolute playing captured the plaintive tone of the music and the solitude within an expansive landscape. The intense range of emotions from the sadness of the beginning weary lament, through to the liveliness of the central folk dance section and finally the dark introspective conclusion were intricately expressed in Will Cesta’s performance.
Nadia Koudasheva played Maurice Ravel’s Ondine the first of the three movements of a suite of pieces for solo piano, Gaspard de la nuit.
Her subtle piano touch and nimble-fingered movements created the mysterious shimmer and mesmerising nature of water.
The passion and urgency of the nymph who seeks to marry a human infused the fragile melody as the sensuous poetic narrative evolved in her discerning performance.
Nadia Koudasheva followed this strenuous piece with the equally demanding Fugue in D minor by Sergei Rachmaninov. The composition was exquisite, powerful and unyielding in its complexity and yet Nadia Koudasheva’s impeccable technique and great musicianship was a perfect match.
Olivia Urbaniak was the final performer in this splendid concert celebrating music and youth. Sergei Mikhailovich Lyapunov, a Russian composer and pianist who between 1897 and 1905 composed The Twelve Transcendental Etudes dedicated to Franz Liszt. Lezginka is the tenth and most famous of the set.
Olivia Urbaniak’s assurance and capacity to embrace the hurdles of the gruelling techniques required when playing Lezginka was very moving and eloquent on a grand scale. Her lyrical, graceful, masterful and intensely passionate playing was beguiling and imparted the spirit of the epic beauty of the composition.
This recital was a brilliant testament to Australia’s finest young pianists. They performed with purpose, vitality, vivid precision and artistic sensitivity. It was inspiring to witness Australian artists of the present and international pianists of the future.
Rose Niland, NSW Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017